I admit: For a long time, when it came to social justice issues, I was nothing more than a couch potato.  Any time I came across something that fired me up, the furthest I would go is share a strongly worded status update or an article to my like-minded bubble on Facebook.

Fast forward to this week, when I attended the Anti-Defamation League’s National Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C.  All of sudden I found myself on Capitol Hill, participating in representational government and hearing directly from senators and other national leaders on what we can do to combat hate crimes.

The ADL taught me how to take specific action about issues that mattered to me.  They booked an appointment with my local Congressman’s office, and along with my fellow Florida delegates I advocated for HR-1566, the NO HATE Act.

Here we are in the office of our representative Ted Deutch.

The NO HATE Act will, among other things, incentivize reporting of hate crimes into the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (getting better data is key, as anyone in modern law enforcement will tell you).

It turns out that it’s really not that hard to talk to your congressperson or their staff.  It is the opposite of intimidating. In front of each office, there’s a plaque that says, “Welcome, Please Come In”:

Discrimination and tolerance is not a right versus left issue and, as such, the ADL is a bipartisan organization that fosters genuine and thoughtful dialog (which IMHO is sorely needed in our country right now.)

At the conference, we heard passionate speeches from leaders on the right, such as Senators John McCain and Marco Rubio, and their counterparts on the left, Ben Cardin and Al Franken. They spoke about the bipartisan nature of eliminating the divisive element of hate in our communities. We heard from Jeh Johnson, former Director of Homeland Security, as well as James Comey, on what turned out to be one of his last days as the head of the FBI.

 

The conference itself was comprised of hundreds of the nicest, most intelligent, and action-oriented people I’ve ever met.  Lawyers represent a huge percentage of ADL people, so as a software executive I was in a minority.  However, because of my extensive work with lawyers and my alignment with their commitment to social justice issues, I felt right at home.

I learned about efforts to minimize bullying at the school level, hearing from people in the LGBTQ, Sikh, and Jewish communities.  We heard from black, Muslim, and Latino leaders on discrimination issues facing their communities.  Immigration reform was also top of mind because of the anti-immigrant rhetoric emerging from last year’s presidential election.

Essentially, the message from ADL leadership is that an attack on one is an attack on all, and we are there to support any group discriminated against.  As ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt put it, “When we fight for others, we fight for ourselves.” I couldn’t agree more.